Green. It’s the color of freshly mowed grass, Christmas trees, limes, St. Patrick’s day, and of course, Kermit the Frog. It also happens to be the color associated with envy and jealousy. As a single person I find that the daily barrage of couples infiltrates the one area of my brain that has the capacity to turn me from mild mannered church girl into the not so jolly green monster.
You know what I mean, right? I mean I can’t be the only one. When you’re on your lunch break and you see a couple sitting together at a restaurant cuddling in the booth as you get your Chinese food for one to go. Or the couple who are holding hands and slowly strolling down the street as you’re rushing to get on with your day. Or the teenagers who are canoodling on the street corner during your commute home, like nobody around them even matters. Or even when you’re best friend tells you she’s getting married. Sure, you’re happy for her, but there’s a small jealous twinge that tugs on your heart strings knowing that she’s found someone and you haven’t been on a date in 5 years.
Depending on where you are in life, you’ve likely dealt with jealousy surrounding your singleness more times than you’d care to acknowledge. I know that when I was in high school and college, as I sat pining for God to bless me with the desire of my heart, I’d look at the other girls around me and see that they all had something I didn’t… a boyfriend. I’d look around and compare myself to these other girls who always seemed to be blessed with having a guy in their lives and I’m surprised that I’m not permanently stained green like Elphaba, the “wicked” witch of the West. I’d think “I know I’m not a 10, but I definitely try harder to look good than she does,” or “I’m so much nicer than she is, how did she get a boyfriend?” or “I’ve done everything right! Why hasn’t it happened yet when it happened for so many other girls with lesser morals?” Let’s just say that those were not my shiniest moments and they surely brought out my ugly!
I’m going to share a moment of real honesty with you, my dear single friends. I’ve been struggling HARD with some serious feelings of jealousy over the past several weeks. I mean some serious, deep seeded junk that I didn’t even know was in my heart has slowly been bleeding out into my daily life. It started out as jealousy about being single when others I know have someone in their lives, but it’s been bleeding ever so slowly into other areas of life because, apparently, I’ve left it unchecked for too long. So I’ve decided to research exactly what God says about jealousy and I’m going to try to share with you some of the conclusions I’ve come up with regarding what God says about jealousy.
Let’s start with the 10 commandments. We all know and love them:
- You shall not have any other gods, except me
- Don’t worship idols
- You must not use the Lord’s name in vain
- Keep the sabbath
- Honor your father and your mother
- Don’t murder anyone
- Don’t commit adultery
- Don’t steal from others
- Don’t lie
- Don’t covet what others have
So there’s the truth for you. The list of the ultimate 10 things that God etched in to stone for Moses to share with His children. Today we’re talking about coveting. Jealousy is basically falling victim to that last commandment because you wouldn’t be jealous of someone else if you weren’t coveting what the other person had. If you’re coveting someone else’s car, house, boyfriend, wife, job, status, whatever it is, it’s all sin and braking the 10th commandment.
In the New Testament, we see another example of jealousy in the form of a parable that Jesus shares about the Prodigal Son. If you’re not familiar with the story, this parable is found in Luke 15:11-32. He tells us about a father who had 2 sons. The younger son decides one day that he wants to leave his father’s farm and doesn’t feel like working on the farm is the life that he wants. So he gets up the nerve to ask his father for his share of the inheritance that he would get once his father dies (keep in mind that his father is very much alive and well at this point). So his father, being the gracious, loving father that he is, gives his youngest son his share of the inheritance. The young son goes out into the world and is tempted by all of the lustful, sinful things that the world has to offers. He lives a life of luxury and excess and eventually he squanders his inheritance and ends up feeding the pigs on a farm in the hope of getting enough money for food. The passage goes so far to say that he desperately wishes he could eat the pig’s food, but nobody would give him any. The younger son realizes that his father’s servants are all well fed and taken care of, so he goes back home with the idea to humble himself and ask his father to hire him as a servant. As he is on the road home, his father sees him from a great distance and runs to him with open arms, welcoming him back home with a huge party because he is so excited that his lost son is found again!
I’m sure you may be wondering, where does jealousy come in to play here? Let’s not forget about the older brother. The one who stayed with his father, worked the land, and didn’t squander anything that his father had provided for him. This son also had not insulted his father by asking for his inheritance as though he couldn’t wait for his father to die. The older son sees that his father has not only welcomed his younger brother back as if he’d never left, but he’s celebrating the return of his irresponsible little brother! The father sees his older son off on the side lines, refusing to enjoy the celebration, so he approaches him to have a chat. The older son honestly tells his father that he feels slighted because he had stayed with his father the entire time and worked the land. He tells his father that he is angry because his father never gave him so much as a young goat (not as precious as the fattened calf that his father killed for the party for his brother) so that he could have a party with friends. It’s clear that the older brother is jealous of the attention and forgiveness that his father has bestowed upon his younger brother.
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always identified more with the older brother in this situation. Not that my sister has ever gone on a crazy million dollar bender or anything like that, but I can totally see where he’s coming from. When you feel that you’ve earned something, like a nice car, a great job, or the spouse of your dreams and you never actually receive what you think you’ve earned, it’s hard to not feel some kind of resentment, frustration, and jealousy. We’re only human after all. This mentality becomes sin when we allow it to fester inside of us and bleed out in an unchecked way. While it might feel good to sit with those repeating thoughts of “I’m better than so-and-so and I deserved this. I’ve paid my dues,” when you harbor jealousy and bitterness you aren’t hurting anyone but yourself. My jealousy over someone else’s relationship isn’t hurting them in any way, but those jealous thoughts and actions are doing serious damage to my soul, my happiness, and my relationship with Jesus.
Now, the key to redeeming yourself here is in the father’s response to all of this. The father didn’t allow the older brother to fester in the corner with these negative feelings. He sought his son out and allowed him the freedom to freely and honestly express what was bothering him. He then offered him a sincere explanation from his perspective, as the father and the overseer of what was happening. The father explains that the older son is always with him and that everything the father has, also belongs to him. Because the older son did not go out and squander his inheritance like his brother did, he gets to share in what his father has now. He still has a piece of all of the wonderful and glorious things that his father has to offer. The father goes on to explain that, despite having all of the wonderful things that he and his father share, the older son should also share in the joy that his brother has returned! The father states in Luke 15:32 “We had to celebrate and be happy because your brother was dead, but now he is alive. He was lost, but now he is found.”
Just like the older brother should have rejoiced in the blessing that his brother returned and was saved from a life of sin, the father was genuinely happy to have his son back from the doorway of hell. When we turn to jealousy (like the older brother), rather than to the father’s open, loving arms, we end up penniless and alone just like the younger brother when he squandered his wealth. We lose the ability to find joy in what the father has consistently provided for us. When we become jealous about everything that everyone else has, we lose God’s joy in us. We lose the ability to celebrate with others who have been blessed.
Going back to the friend getting married example, if I were to stay locked in my jealous and bitter funk, I’d miss out on sharing a special moment with my friend before her life changes forever. If I’m so busy cursing every couple I see and telling them to just “get a room already” then I’m missing out on all of the other wonderful things in the world that God may be trying to show me while I’m out in the world. If all I ever do is dwell on the fact that someone else gets all of the credit for something that I also contributed too, then I miss out on the success of whatever it is I was a part of to begin with.
While I don’t have all of the answers and I am definitely still struggling to internalize and truly take to heart this lesson that I’ve been slowly learning over the past few weeks, I encourage you to confess any jealousy and let God know what you’re coveting deep down in your heart. Be honest with him, just like the older brother was. While we don’t know for sure if the older brother ever really came to terms with his brother’s return and his father’s response, you will surely see what the outcome is for you when you confess your struggle to God and ask for His help. God will always freely offer His grace, His forgiveness, and His strength to change your heart. James 4:7 states “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” When we submit ourselves to God (sinful jealousy, bitterness, and all) He gives us strength and changes our heart to allow us to fulfill His good plan rather than allowing us to sink into sin. So go out into the world, my single friends, and spread God’s light to others in celebration of God’s joy and grace for us all!